Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Even I can make Lasagna (with a little help from my friends)

My friend Sam had a baby! Hooray! Although I did manage to make her some pretty awesome Blondies for consumption (and comfort) during her hospital stay (and BTW, THANKS Trader Joes Blondie Mix- you never fail to impress!), my girlfriends and I decided to get together and make some real food to send over to the new parents.

I have not blogged at all about actually cooking something for as those who know me (or are literate and actually ready the title of this blog) know, I am NOT a good cook.  So of course, I thought something as complicated and yummy as lasagna was way out of my league.  I also just thought I would never want to make it because it seems like it takes a long freakin' time and as the mom of a two year old tornado- I don't often get an hour and a half to make a lasagna!

Enter my dear friend (and mom-to-be and fantastic cook!) Meghan, who assures me that she has an Ina Garten recipe for lasagna that even I can make.  Now I want to preface the following story with the fact that Meghan still did almost everything when it came to making our lasagna (I worked within my capabilities-chopping and stiring), BUT after seeing this dish made start to finish, I feel like even I-the mommy who doesn't cook- could do it.  And it wouldn't even take me an hour an half!

Here's what you need:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian turkey sausage
1 jar of tomato sauce (whatever brand ya like)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound lasagna noodles- the NO BOIL kind!  I didn't even know they existed!!!
15 ounces ricotta cheese
3 to 4 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

 Ok, now Ina tells you to make your own tomato sauce.  yeah right.  I just asked my friend Francesco Rinaldi to provide and I think it worked out juuust fine.

Here's what you do:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink. Add the sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one third of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

 This thing looked beautiful coming out! Shoulda taken a picture- darn!  You know what, I think I'm gonna make this lasagna all by myself next week and will update this blog with a photo.  I should mention that if you doubt your own abilities to make this dish, good old Trader Joes makes an excellent frozen vegetable lasagna that I have relied on for a family dinner a good amount of times.  Huff Post even rated that one the #1 best tasting frozen lasagna.  Hey Trader Joes- two good product placements for you in this blog! Send me some free stuff! But don't send lasagna- cause I got that covered:)

Big shout out to Meg for teaching this terrible cook how to make such a tasty family dinner!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pizza Party- Part 1

Today's post is simple. It is (the beginning of a) list of my favorite pizza places in neighborhoods around LA.  Trust me, as a mom that doesn't cook- I know my freaking pizza.  Here's a few pizza joints I love:

Silver Lake: Nicky D's Woodfire Pizza2764 Rowena Avenue  Los Angeles, CA 90039 323-664-3333
Thin crust, lots of cheese (may wanna do a little napkin grease blotting on the top of this one), but so good. I like the "blond bunny", only order with marinara sauce.  The Silver lake location is NOT a good place to take kids--its tiny. Order delivery.

Hollywood: Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036  (323) 297-0101
More like a date place than a kid place, but the pizza is the real deal.  I love the burrata and squash blossom pie.  Take your husband or pick up when you feel like a fancy pizza splurge.

Eagle Rock:  Brownstone 
2108 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90041(323) 257-4992
This is our local spot (as we are Eagle Rockers), but my East Coast tastes are totally satisfied by this real deal pizza joint.  Take the fam- there's a good amount of seating (and beer).  Order a pie for delivery if you're local or make the trek to pick up--its worth it.

Santa Monica: Joe's Pizza
111 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401(310) 395-9222
Pizza less than a block from the Pacific Ocean...seems like there's no way it can be good, right?  Wrong!  This is a place to grab a slice (or pie) to go, and then head to Palisades Park to enjoy.  Not much seating, and no real ambiance.

Santa Monica: Pizza Antica
395 Santa Monica Pl, Santa Monica, CA 90401(310) 394-4080
Pricey, but delish with interesting combinations or build your own options with really fresh ingredients.  Actually my fave thing here is a seasonal burschetta with smoked salmon and capers.  Pizza is heartier with more of a thick crust thing happening than I usually go for.  Plus the top floor of Santa Monica Place mall has pretty much the best view of the ocean you could ask for and a place for kids to run while you're waiting for your food.

Echo Park: Masa
1800 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026 (213) 989-1558
Real Deal Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza!!  Plus this is a great place to take kids for dinner out.  Lots of space, laid back atmosphere, lots of choices.  I freaking live for several non-pizza items on this menu including the moules frites and the croissant bread pudding, but for a pie I am hard pressed not to pick the 'Cerro Gordo' Bistro style pizza (thin crust)  or good old extra cheese deep dish.  Just one thing- they are NOT afraid of garlic at Masa...vampires beware.